Review: Holmeside Coffee, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens
On paper, the Museum and Winter Gardens may not have seemed an obvious choice for Holmeside Coffee's new location.
While the popular coffee shop has built up a strong identity since it was founded in 2013, with a brand founded on quality artisan coffee and an aesthetic of New York loft apartment peppered with modern artworks, the cafe within the museum, in comparison, has never caused much of a stir.
Most recently Eden cafe, it was fine for a cuppa and a panini, but the only thing that ever made it stand out from the crowd was the panoramic window overlooking the lush vegetation of the Winter Gardens.
But, the owners of Holmeside Coffee, which was previously housed within Independent nightclub on Holmeside, saw the potential in this bland blank canvas – plus, it’s close enough to Holmeside to keep the name. Just.
Armed with the proceeds of a crowd-funding campaign, they set about stamping their brand on the large space and making the most of those tropical views, and the results of putting an independent coffee shop within this public space knock socks off the previous incarnations on this site.
The trademark Holmeside look is there but, with more space to play with, it’s been enhanced by a colour palette that echoes the neighbouring greenery, along with splashes of botanicals, a mismatch of cushions ranging from nautical stripes to slogan prints, plus more colourful artworks propped up on the shelves.
A large basement kitchen also gives the coffee shop more space to expand and experiment with the menu – though taosted sandwiches and home-made soups are still their bread and butter.
We visited for Sunday brunch and, with its soulful laid-back jazz tunes and casual atmosphere, it was the perfect place to while away a lazy morning.
The menu is limited while it settles in its new home, but it’s still better than your average brunch offering in the city centre.
You order at the bar, but meals are brought to your table and I didn’t have long to wait for my order of Americano (£2.50 with milk), which is made with beans from the excellent Ouseburn Coffee up the road in Newcastle, and avocado smash (or avocado on toast as I like to call it) topped with poached eggs (£6.95).
It’s a simple dish, but it was beautifully executed with the just-the-right-side-of-chewy sourdough topped by whips of ripe avocado and eggs that oozed into submission at the lightest of pokes.
Little ones are also well catered for with Fruit Shoots amongst the San Pellegrino in the drinks fridge and a children’s menu with options such as home-made pasta (£3).
I couldn’t resist another of those rich, yet smooth coffees, and for those who like their cuppa with a kick there’s a guest espresso which changes regularly.
A peanut butter brownie (£2.20) from a colourful display of home-made cakes was also calling our name and we kicked back for another half an hour.
And, when the spring and summer finally arrives, diners will be able to enjoy their brew outside with views of the park.
It may have been a leap of faith going from a nightclub to a museum, but this gem of a coffee shop seems right at Holme.